The ASAP Genuinely Participatory Consultations (GPC) Working Group has published its initial assessment of the UN’’s global consultation process on the next phase of international development.
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has been leading an initiative to genuinely include poor and marginalized people, governments, NGOs, the private sector, unions, and academics in the discussion of the global development framework that will succeed the Millennium Developments Goals (MDGs). This process, initiated in spring of 2012, has included national consultations in more than 60 countries and eleven global thematic consultation meetings. National consultations concluded in January and thematic consultations will run through the spring.
According to the UN Development Group website’s page on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, consultations were meant to “stimulate discussion amongst national stakeholders and to garner inputs and ideas for a shared global vision”.
This global consultation process stands in contrast with the method used to design the MDG framework in the late 1990s. Although the years leading up to the formulation of the MDGs saw many global summits on development issues, the list of MDGs was finalized without public input. While the policy process this time has been more inclusive, it is not yet clear how the ideas generated in the post-MDG consultation meetings will influence the new development framework.
ASAP has formed an expert working group on participatory consultation to discuss the inclusiveness of the process of formulating the MDG successors and to make recommendations for participatory implementation of the new framework.
The group’s discussion paper, outlines principles for inclusive consultation processes in general and suggests ways of ensuring that the new development framework is implemented in an inclusive and participatory way.
The report’s main conclusions include:
- Consultations must ensure that the voices of those who are consulted are taken seriously and have weight in final decision-making about the post-MDG development agenda.
- All consultations must be evaluated on the basis of how genuinely participatory they are.
- Genuinely participatory processes are part of an ongoing process that is important to the legitimization of the post-MDG development agenda, not only in terms of the content of the MDG replacement goals themselves but also in terms of the successful implementation and monitoring of those goals.
Meena Krishnamurthy, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Manitoba, recruited the team of academic experts in the field of democratic theory and was lead author of the discussion paper. Describing the process, she said “writing the paper was actually quite easy, because we all agreed on the fundamental issues of why genuinely participatory processes are important and how to begin to implement such processes.”
Elizabeth Anderson, Professor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan and a member of the working group, also observed broad agreement amongst the experts involved: “I found a high degree of consensus among the members of the working group, which is not to say that we all had the same ideas coming in, but that we saw the value of the ideas everyone was putting in,” she said.
Krishnamurthy says she does not believe that this group’s recommendations will significantly influence the post-MDG consultation meetings organized at the UN, since this process is almost over. However, she says she believes the group’s work could be valuable for development policy going forward.
“The processes that we have argued for and outlined could be applied to more general international political processes and consultations. So, perhaps the document could be used as a model, more generally, for genuinely participatory discussions regarding development.”
Looking towards next steps for the post-MDG framework, Anderson said that the time for consulting academics has passed. “The main work going forward for the UN process is not so much to consult academics, as to consult the poor themselves, and to be responsive to their voices. We academics have contributed successfully to the extent that we have facilitated the empowerment of the poor.”
Krishnamurthy sees an important role for participatory consultation not just in the formulation, but also in the implementation and monitoring of the new development framework.
“I think the next step really is to think about how genuine participation can be part of the implementation and monitoring of the MDGRs [MDG replacements]. There already exists a body of work on participatory processes in the implementation and monitoring of health-related goals. Perhaps we can draw on this model as we begin to think about how participation can be realized in relation to the MDG-Rs and issues of health.”
The members of ASAP’s Participatory Consultations Working Group are Elizabeth Anderson, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and John Rawls Collegiate Professor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan; Seyla Benhabib, Eugene Mayer Professor of Philosophy and Political Science and Director of the Program in Ethics, Politics, and Economics at Yale University; Lyn Carson, Professor of Applied Politics, School of Humanities and Communication Arts, University of Western Sydney; John Dryzek, Professor of Political Science at the Australian National University and Australian Research Council Federation Fellow; Meena Krishnamurthy, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Associate Director of the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics, University of Manitoba; Vijayendra Rao, Lead Economist in the Development Research Group of the World Bank; Charles Sabel, Maurice T. Moore Professor of Law and Social Science at Columbia Law School; Gilad Tanay, Ph.D. Candidate in the Philosophy Department of Yale University; Catarina Tully, Director of From Over Here; Mark Warren, Professor of Political Science and Harold and Dorrie Merilees Chair in the Study of Democracy, University of British Columbia; Scott Wisor, Research Fellow in the Centre for Moral, Social, and Political Theory in the School of Philosophy at the Australian National University; Melissa Williams, Professor of Political Science, University of Toronto; and Bettina von Lieres, Centre for Critical Development Studies at the University of Toronto Scarborough.